Form and structure

The poem is written in two line stanzas which work to establish tension that builds up bit by bit as the poem moves from the ordinary world into a nightmare.

The first five stanzas form one sentence. They portray the two boys being excited about their adventure.

The fifth stanza is confident in tone, suggesting the speaker is in control. This is juxtaposed with the onset of insecurity. This uncertainty then leads to the frenzied apocalyptic atmosphere of the rest of the poem.

Stanza six starting with the word However is pivotal. Despite the apparent confidence, the boy is obscurely worried. After the initial what if questions, the poem escalates into horror as the bus lets them down in another country.

From this point, the structure drives the poem on towards a crescendo. This contains call-backs using the technique of anaphora.

The fact that every stanza begins with and mimicks a child’s breathless description of features of a familiar world - building sites, the sweet shop, the bus, the sea - that have now become warped and obscure. Indeed, the last seven stanzas of the poem form one sentence, as if this frightening vision has run away with itself.

The final line and our sisters and mothers are fifty years dead ends the poem with a sense of finality. This emphasises the boys’ vulnerability and isolation in the alien, adult world to which the wreck of a bus has returned them.